Friday, 16 November 2007

Intaferon "Getoutoflondon" (Intacontinentalballisticmix) (Chrysalis Records 12", 1983)

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Intaferon are a band that are absolutely perfect for the Blogosphere. Unloved in their own time, yet responsible for a short run of highly memorable, quirky, melodic singles. The subject matter was always clever and moving enough to tug at the heartstrings, meaning people tend to hear them once, then spend the rest of their lives going: "there was this record I heard about 25 years ago, and I can't remember who it was by, but it goes like this....." They're a band who've feature on some of the blogs I read frequently: over at Dust On the Stylus, and at Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era (updates! PLEASE!) And of course, the records remain unavailable on CD, to this day. Well, almost unavailable- the single version of "Getoutoflondon" was, IIRC, on the soundtrack to an Olsen twins film "Winning London", alongside Plastic Bertrand, of all people. It's also turned up on some of those US compliation CD's of forgotten 80's songs. So, if we stick to the rules of this blog, the single version can't be posted, but I'm pretty sure the 12" has never officially been re-released, so we'll have some of that.

Intaferon were a duo, featuring two Simons, a Fellowes (later to go solo as Simon F, and even later than that to release Techno records as F Machine) and a Gillham, who seems to have dropped off the radar completely, apparently to go and teach Philosophy. Their trick was to work with some of the best producers of the day- with David Motion on their epic third single "Baby Pain" and with Martin Rushent on this, their debut single. I've always been in awe of Martin Rushent, his productions are one of the things that completely define the 1980's for me- his work on "Dare", with Altered Images, and his REMIXES...... It's his remixes that blow my mind. Have a listen to the stretched version of "Radio" by the Members, or "Homosapien" by Pete Shelley to see what I mean. But the one remix that towers over all of them IMHO, is this one. It's 8 minutes of frenetic, amphetamine-drenched, febrile madness. It actually starts straight away by piling into the third verse, which breaks all of the rules of remixing, then proceeds to thumb its nose at any of the remaining conventions of the remixers trade. Linn drums twitter, on the edge of seizure, vocals echo into an unintelligible soup of delay and FX....

And then there's the edits! Like the Latin Rascals a few years later, Rushent was a master of the lightning fast edit. The song seems to jerk to a sudden stop, then re-start....sometimes with no regard for the beat. It's simultaneously exciting and confusing, and that's what makes it work.. At the end of the day, it's an absolute blast to hear a record where so many ideas are struggling to be heard, and yet the song still manages to survive. It's an iconic production, and one which still stands up to examination, even after nearly 25 years.

All this genius didn't help the single, unfortunately- it only reached number 93 in the charts. Rumour has it that the single's progress was initially stymied by some rather thoughtless promotion... someone in the Chrysalis press office had some flyers printed up before the single's release saying "Get Out Of London- In Two Weeks!", in an attempt to drum up press interest. Bad move. Some of the journalists, fearing they'd been targeted by terrorists, or disgruntled musicians, called Scotland Yard. The band's relationship with the press was never the same after that.

As I said, there are no legal compilations of Intaferon's output, though bootleg CD's do turn up on eBay from time to time. As ever, caveat emptor. Gratifyingly, martin Rushent is back producing again, after a few years where he seemed to have stepped back from the business. He has a myspace page, check him out here. maybe I'll leave him a message and ask if there are any unreleased Miro Miroe remixes in the vaults.....

no sites exist for Intaferon themselves, but if anyone knows any know where I am.

Intaferon "Getoutoflondon" (Intacontinentalballisticmix) (mp3)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Bon Jovi - "Keep The Faith" (Unreleased Jesus Jones Remix) (Mercury Records, 1992)

Well, I'm very aware of the basic rules of this blog, which state:
1) Is it available on CD?
2)If not, would people be interested in hearing it?

I know the "real" version of this song certainly is available- but I'm going to take a punt on this particular version being of interest. It's been heard by about 50 people over the years, and no stock copies of it exist, there are just the Masters, the DAT's and the cassette copies that were dubbed off at the time. So it's a real oddity. I've played it to a close circle of friends and family over the years, and they've always got a kick out of hearing it, so, after 15 long years, here it is. I guess I should have asked Bon Jovi first...but hey, I lost their number :)
Why do I love this song? Well, not because it's perfect (it isn't), but because it has that indefinable quality to it- Zeitgeist. The ghost of the time (or to borrow a little phrase from Hawkwind: the spirit of the age). And I realise that I love this song whilst obviously having had a great deal to do with how it sounds; but if you can't cherish the things you've created, then what can you cherish?
So, let's rewind 15 years shall we? It's 1992, and i'm in a band (Jesus Jones. I'm the idiot bouncing up and down behind the keyboards). Now, one of the most marvellous things about being in a band is the constant string of seemingly random requests that come your way. Can you fly to Canada for three days to do some promo? Sure. Can you attend the launch party for a film you've never heard of? Sure- well, hang on, is there a free bar? There is? In that case- sure. Can you remix the next Bon Jovi single?
There are surprises around every corner, and this was one of the biggest. Myself and Mike Edwards were charged with remixing the upcoming Bon Jovi single, the first to be taken from their comeback album "Keep The Faith". We were, it has to be said, gobsmacked, and a little confused as to why they'd approached Jesus Jones in the first place. The song had a four-on-the-floor kick drum, a shuffling drum pattern, it was poppy, it was...well, for want of a better word, it was quite baggy . So someone, somewhere must have put two and two together, found they made five, but called us anyway.
And so it was, that on a chilly Wednesday morning, in September 1992, I arrived at Mike's house with a few records, a few ideas, and the rough tape of this song. We created the rough bones of the remix at Mike's house, in his bedroom studio. I love the fact that Bon Jovi recorded the album, with Bob Rock, in hugely expensive studios across the US, and this song got remixed in a tiny backroom in Kilburn, North London.
The Zeitgeist inherent in this remix comes, partly from the way it was created, and also the way It sounds. It was created using the pre-eminent technology du jour, Atari's Cubase, and by an Akai S1000 sampler. Cheap, affordable and easy to use, this technology was being used all across the UK to create an absolute torrent of new Dance Music, most interestingly for me: breakbeat hardcore. It was to two hardcore white labels I turned to get the breaks for this remix- "Don't Go" by The Awesome 3, and "Dis Generation" by Cosmic Brian. Once we'd got the breaks sampled, we steamed ahead with the tune. The bass line came from our trusty Juno 6, as did the acidic squelches, the Roland D10 keyboard gave us the hats, tambourines and little drum fills, and the rest of it came from Messrs Jovi. One of the funniest memories of the entire process is listening the vocal track and hearing the line "I am broken like an arrow" and actually hearing "I am broken like marrow" We couldn't understand it- who would be broken like a marrow? Why would you compare yourself to a marrow? Even now, I'm still wondering.
We basically turned the song into a slice of poppy hardcore, with a chirpy little keyboard line, and rolling breakbeats. We made a couple of major changes to the song structure, and it's these changes which, I suspect, may be the reason behind this Remix remaining unreleased. First off, we removed the line about "everyone bitchin' 'cos the times are tough".. it just felt wrong when placed into the context of a poppy remix. So we doubled up the first line of the bridge "everybody needs somebody to love". In hindsight, we were really messing with another artist's craft, and I can kind of see why they would be pissed off. But hey, it was all done with good intentions. The second change we made was to totally re-record the guitar solo. It was my greatest musical achievement EVER, finally getting to play a totally bitching solo! We chopped the original solo into around a dozen tiny segments (if you listen carefully, you can hear the repeated phrases) and replayed them, whilst we ran the backing track. It was great fun, and i reckon the solo that emerges sounds AMAZING (well, I would, wouldn't I?) However, I'm willing to bet Richie Sambora didn't feel quite the same. Whatever.
And that was it, really; we mixed it down on the 1st of October, in Master-rock studios, just up the road on Kilburn High Street. At the mixing stage, we also recorded a mental, fast version (about 150bpm) without the vocals, called the "Shariba" mix. That version will stay unreleased :)
So, it's a song with Zeitgeist- for it's use of the technology of the time, the fact that it was recorded in basic conditions, in a spirit of adventure, of emerging possibility, with naive optimism and some of the sounds that were in our heads at the time. It's wrapped up in how I felt and thought about music back then, how I thought it should be made, how I thought it should sound, and most importantly, it's wrapped up in memories of how my life was: how things were when the band was at it's peak, and all this madness was around us. I'm certainly not pining for those days, in fact, I'm rather glad to be free of them, but it's interesting to revisit the memory bank every once in a while.
This mp3 has been dubbed off a cassette, so the quality isn't perfect, but, enjoy. It's been a long time coming.
Oh, and don't tell Bon Jovi. Cheers.

Bon Jovi "Keep The Faith" (Jesus Jones Remix) (mp3)

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Jesus And Mary Chain - Live At The ICA (Bootleg cassette, 1984)

Everyone has a favourite gig, just as they have a favourite record. Mine was not so much a favourite gig, more a full-blown, road to Damascus epiphany. After the events of the night of Saturday the 29th of December 1984, I knew that the day-dreams I'd had of joining a band had crossed over from mere dreams to being something which I could no longer control : I just had to be in a band. I didn't know how, at that point; and it took a few years before it happened, but it all stems from one gig.
I'd seen punk bands before this that made me love them, I'd even seen Duran Duran who made me love the idea of pure pop music, but I'd never been jolted into action. This gig was the impetus which I needed, and its sense of anger, violence and sheer physical release shaped everything I ever did as a musician.
So, on that Saturday night, I entered the ICA, to see The Jesus And Mary Chain. The gig was part of a week of performances, showcasing new and emerging talent. This meant you got a real mixed bag of shows, none more so than for this one. The Mary Chain were supported by pre-Raphaelite folksters Shellyan Orphan, who went down like a lead balloon with the sweaty crowd of punks, who'd obviously come down to take a look at the drunken bunch of Scots who were being hailed as the musical apocalypse. The entire front row watched in utter disbelief as Shellyan Orphan proceeded to come on stage, sit down on some stools, and then, to utter bemusement, got an artist friend to paint an Oil painting whilst they strummed their baroque ballads. Every now and again, the singer would say, mid-song, “Hey, what d'ya think of the painting?” In a wonderfully cut-glass home counties accent. I could hear the bloke next to me saying to his mate: “I'll tell him what I fuckin' think of his fuckin' painting if I fuckin' catch that poncey fuckin' twat outside later” It was nothing short of a miracle that the band escaped with their lives. Clearly, the audience had bigger fish to fry- absolutely everyone in the building was there to see the Mary Chain, and the tension was palpable as they shuffled onto the stage. And then......
....And then they did nothing. For about 10 minutes. In front of a virtually psychotic crowd, waiting for them to fail, waiting for them to pass out in a drug-induced coma (the papers were full of rumours that they basically lived on Amphetamines). The atmosphere at the front of the crowd was turning ugly, so I retreated to the side of the venue. I can see myself there now, I was wearing my long black crombie coat (de riguer at the time) a dark paisley shirt, buttoned to the neck, Tight black drainpipes and Shelly's brothel creepers. I was sandwiched between a bloke with a Leather Jacked festooned with the cover of “Punk's Not Dead” by the Exploited and some journalists, notebooks at the ready. We watched the crowd as they began to get more and more restless, shouting for the band to do something, anything. Anything at all.
After around five minutes, where they did little more than kick things on stage, the noise began. Gently at first, a small shrill whistle singing out over our heads. It went on for a few minutes more, until it morphed into recognisable feedback. The first few thwacks on the stand up drum were greeted with sarcastic cheers. Drumming for them at that point was of course Bobby Gillespie, with Shades covering most of his face, and dressed head to toe in leather. Jim and William Reid prowled around the stage, in an advanced state of refreshment. Jim, in particular, looked like he was unsure whether he was awake or not. William sat on the floor, with a black Gretsch guitar, aimlessly turning the knobs on his amplifier. And then, they finally started playing.
Six songs. That's all you got, and it was actually quite a long gig for the band (I remember the Electric Ballroom show coming in at a shade over 17 minutes) Starting with a piercing version of “In A Hole” and ending, 20 minutes later, with an inhuman shriek of noise, as “Jesus Suck” collapsed in on itself. In between those two points were twenty of the most exciting musical minutes I've ever seen. I've yet to see a band reach the same dizzying heights of nonchalant aggression since. I still don't think I'll ever see a better gig. I vividly remember every single second: Jim laughing at the stupidity of it all during “Vegetable man”, William's solo in “You Trip me Up” exploding from the bowels of the song in a sudden slash of simple was just wonderful.
Even the combative audience seemed to have been forced into submission by the wall of noise: the effect of the sheer brutality of the sound was to make you clench your fists (I had marks from my fingernails on my palms for the rest of the night) but the fists never ended up lashing out. The feedback had all of us in its thrall;gritting our teeth as this screaming monster of a gig passed over our heads.
At the end of it all, I felt drunk, giddy from the noise, unsteady on my feet. I emerged into the night air of The Mall with my teeth on edge, my ears whistling, and my heart absolutely pounding from the sheer magic of it all. It's been beating that way ever since.
There have been bootleg albums of the gig around for a number of years, I bought a few, eagerly expecting them to help me recreate the night in my mind, but they were without exception, all rubbish. Normally missing a song, or badly recorded, none managed to live up to the original bootleg cassette of the gig I bought in Camden market, a week later. The tape remains, for me, the definitive record of that night's show.
It's a pretty hefty download, around 30meg, but if you have any interest in the Mary Chain whatsoever, it's a must. Enjoy. I guess the download may mess with my fileden limit, so I'll leave this link up for less than a week-if you want this one, be quick about it :)

Jesus And Mary Chain CD's available here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Natural-Ites And The Realistics "Picture On The Wall" (CSA Records, 1983)

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Here's the first of what I hope will be a string of Reggae tracks on Down With Tractors- the only reason I've not posted more is that It's tricky to check just what has come out on CD, and as you know, this blog likes to try and focus on stuff that's otherwise unavailable. I'm pretty sure that this has never been re-issued, which is's one of the most strident, yet sweetly melodic Roots anthems that I can think of. Back in 1983, I came across this record in the same way that a lot of others did: via the huge airplay that it got on the evening shows on Radio 1, particularly of course, via John Peel (they were even called upon to record a session for Peel after the release of the single). The single also made it into Peel's Festive Fifty in 1983, reaching the dizzying heights of nuber 10, which shows just how popular it was. (For all your Festive Fifty needs, I'd implore you all to check out Steve's excellent blog) If I can use a dirty word here, it was an undoubted crossover success, even threatening to be a proper hit single. There's an exhaustive history of the band here, which I'd encourage you to check out.

The song itself needs no real explanation: there's a lilting horn section providing the counter-melodies, and there' just enough of a blues inflection in Ossie Gad's voice to give the song that feeling of joy and spiritual power. This version is the edited 7" version, I know i've got the 12" somwhere, i'll try and find it(off to dig in those crates again!!)....but for now,Enjoy.

Natural-Ites And The Realistics "Picture On The Wall" (mp3)

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Bourgie Bourgie "Apres Ski" (MCA 12" B-side, 1984)

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There are certain voices that sum up the 1980's for me: Billy MacKenzie, Martin Fry, Pete Wylie, Green, Morrissey (and many more) ...but one of the names on my list never seems to make it onto anyone elses- Paul Quinn.

Paul, to me, has a voice which is the Yang to Billy Mackenzie's Yin. Whilst MacKenzie was sometimes histrionic and over-wraught, lapsing into a pleading falsetto; Quinn's voice is an altogether different beast. His voice is deeper, more Rock'n'Roll, occasionally emerging as a low, bluesy howl. Yet both voices have that power, that range of expression, that spread of emotion that few others matched. Oddly, i've always felt Billy's voice, despite its falsetto swoops, was more masculine, whilst Paul Quinn, with that lascivious low drawl, had more of a feminine quality to his voice. I'm guessing that the paradoxes within each persons vocal style are the hooks that keep us all interested, keep us in thrall to these sounds.....

Whilst Billy Mackenzie is more readily accepted as an iconic performer, Paul Quinn seems to command less attention, which is a pity. I suppose this is partly due to a lesser commercial profile, but also to a sense that here was a performer who was slightly rootless: his disparate output encompasses work with The Jazzateers, duets with Edwyn Collins and Vince Clarke, as well as this short-lived outfit, Bourgie Bourgie. He never really seemed to find a home, somewhere to ground his art. If he had, I suspect things might have been different.

But enough musing, let's think about THAT voice. If you've never heard his version of The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes", you've never heard the definitive version of the song. For an artist to eclipse someone like Lou Reed is pretty rare, but Paul Quinn manages it effortlessly. His low mournful voice, dripping with regret and pain, just nails it. Remind me to post it at some point in the future.....

But today's slice of Quinn genius is this B-side from the debut Bourgie Bougie single. The A-side ("Breaking Point") has its admirers, but for me it's always been about the B-side. "Apres Ski" kicks off with a truly memorable little riff, before wandering off into an extended bluesy jam. It sounds as though the second half of the song was extemporised in the studio; such is the sense of joy and release as the band just, sort of, mess about for the last four minutes. The feeling of a band right on the edge of it's creative powers is what makes me love this song so much. It even ends apologetically, the drummer still trying to keep the song going just that little bit longer... To appreciate the song fully, you had to have the 12" version, which feature the full version: the 7" single had both it's A and B sides cruelly truncated. For those of you who are curious about the A-side, here's some youtube action:

And here's "Apres Ski" in all it's seven and a half minutes of glory. Enjoy.

Bourgie Bourgie "Apres Ski" (Extended Version) (mp3)

Friday, 2 November 2007

Swans "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Product Inc Records, 1988)

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Well, I'm sure I don't have to fill you in on Swans. Of all of the early no-wave/industrial bands coming out of New York's burgeoning Art-Rock scene, they were the loudest and the nastiest, for a while. The early albums are just these huge slabs of churning noise, topped off with Michael Gira's distinctive howling vocals.

So it was something of a surprise when they released this cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in 1988. It's a magisterial slice of doomy pop, which always sounded to me like it should have been a HUGE hit. Oh well, what would I know? It came in a multitude of editions, and in two distinct versions: the "Red" one features Michael Gira on vocals, the "Black" one has his collaborator Jarboe turning in a slightly more mournful, slower vocal. Apparently, Gira was unhappy with his vocal performance (I can't quite see why) and though Jarboe's version has been reissued, I believe this version is still unavailable. That's a great shame; I've heard plenty of Joy Division covers, and without exception, they all seem to be dreadful. This song has a gravitas and tension that pays homage to the original whilst taking it into a new direction (it's a nice touch to have simplified the main riff by a couple of notes, letting the song breathe)

As a further delight, the "Red" version of the single came on lush Red Vinyl (natch). That's it above- it's better to look at than the sleeve, which is Red type on a Red background.

Swans "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (mp3)

Haircut 100 "Nobody's Fool" (demo) (Flexipop hard vinyl test press, 1982)

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We take the acquisition of music a little too much for granted nowadays, don't we? A download is but a mouse-click away; itunes can call on a library of millions of songs (but good luck finding exactly what you want!) and every magazine or newspaper you buy seems to disgorge at least 1 free covermounted CD.

So it's always nice to look back at a time when the height of musical technology was to be presented with a FREE RECORD, taped to the front of a magazine! Imagine that! Well, it wasn't without it's drawbacks- the record was actually a flexidisc, which meant sometimes it was creased, it wouldn't play properly, the needle on your record player would gouge holes in the flexi...... Welcome to the world of Flexipop Magazine. At the start of the 80's however, this free music/added bonus of a magazine concept was very funky indeed, and my heart would beat just a little faster when I arrived at the newsagents to see a pile of the magazines, with their flexis proudly attached to the cover: a yellow John Foxx one, The Cure (green) OMD (blue, with Nash The Slash as well)........ For those of you who remember, and perhaps those of you who are curious, there's a full list here. Amongst all of these other bands sat the subject of today's post: Haircut 100 (March 1982, Green) "Nobody's Fool" should be instantly recognisable to anyone with any knowledge of the band: it was a single after all, reaching number 9 in the charts later that year.

What's not so readily known is that this version of the song is actually solely written and performed by Haircut 100's driving force, singer-songwriter Nick Heyward. The band themselves seemed to be falling apart, due to the pressures of their new-found fame, and this song was earmarked as Nick's first solo single. In fact, it finally emerged as the last Haircut 100 single to feature Nick (the band carried on for a year or so without him, to no discernible success whatsoever). whether the band actually featured on the final single, or whether they were there merely in name, i don't really know. However, having had at least some knowledge of what it's like when bands start the process of falling apart, I can imagine the rancour and bitterness this song must have caused amongst his bandmates when they realised nick was setting out on his own and leaving them behind.

This version is fairly simplistic (as one might expect from a solo demo) but with all the added charm that demos have: yes, the vocals are shaky, the production is shonky...but there's a joyous sense of propulsion to the song: it drives along, whooping and crashing, with Nicks vocals powering along over the top. And there's one more thing that makes this copy special: it's a hard vinyl test pressing. Flexipop records were, obviously Flexis; but in the interests of promotion, the magazine had a limited number of hard vinyl copies made up of each one. These are incredibly rare: the Cure one goes for several hundred pounds, and there's an article on Goth in this month's Record Collector magazine which notes that the Bauhaus hard vinyl pressing goes for around £250! If anyone has the magazine to hand, have a little look at the handwriting on the Bauhaus label: exactly the same as on the record above- obviously it was one person's job to sit in the Flexipop offices and write out all the labels (in the same Black felt tip, too!) Well, though it's nice to know that my record is only one of 50 copies, and it's nice to be able to hear the song in some semblance of decent quality, I doubt that it's worth as much as the other Flexipop rarities. No matter, I love it just as much, regardless.

If you don't own any Haircut 100 records, then get yourself sorted. Pronto. It's less than a fiver :)

Haircut 100 "Nobody's Fool" (Demo Version) (mp3)